If you have not yet decided to take a trip to Costa Rica or if you already have it clear but have not yet looked for information, surely one of the first questions you ask yourself in order to organize your trip is what to see in Costa Rica. After spending a couple of months wandering around this beautiful country, I think this publication of the travel guide about places of interest in Costa Rica can be useful for you.
Go ahead that San José is not one of the most attractive places in the country but because it is the capital, surely, you are going to have to pass some time. So take advantage of your days out thereto, for example, get to know a little bit of the history of Costa Rica, immerse yourself in its culture or mix with local people. Here I recommend you take a walk through its urban center or its Central Market, a view of the imposing National Theater or one of its many museums, or a moment of spiritual reflection in the majestic Metropolitan Cathedral or in the colorful Iglesia Nuestra Señora de la Merced. San José is also a good place to eat, have a drink, go out dancing… if you need more ideas you can get them from the blog post about my trip to San José. My advice is that you take advantage of the capital to meet local people, and what better way to do it than to sleep at one of them with Airbnb. If you want to try this platform, here I leave you an invitation with 25 euros as a gift.
In a country where most cities and towns lack tourist charm, Zarcero is a pretty exception. This small town has a photogenic central park that is made up of a topiary garden and the Church of San Rafael, beautiful outside and inside.
There are many volcanoes to see in Costa Rica, and of course, the Poas Volcano National Park is one of them. The Poas is the only one from which it is possible to observe its spectacular crater from above. The park grounds are also made up of a forest and a lagoon, giving this place even more charm. Unfortunately, it is currently closed due to volcanic activity.
La Paz waterfall
Very close to the Poas the La Paz Waterfall runs , the waterfall that most impressed me of the many I saw in Costa Rica. Well, who says waterfall says waterfalls since at any given time you can see three waterfalls at once. La Catarata de la Paz is also a park where, after paying an entrance fee ($ 40 for foreigners), you can see many animals in the butterfly garden, aviary, frog, tiger area …
In the Cartago region is the Irazú Volcano National Park , raised at almost 3500 meters of altitude, with a purely volcanic landscape. If you are lucky to go on a clear day, the views from above promise to be spectacular. In this blog post about my trip through Irazú Volcano, Poas and La Paz Waterfall you can see more photos and information about these places. By the way, most of the country’s volcanoes are hardly accessible by public transport, so if you don’t have many days to travel, my recommendation is to rent a car. At Rentalcars you can compare prices between various companies.
Cartago, in addition to the aforementioned region, is one of the most important cities in Costa Rica and, for many years, it was the capital of the country. Although it has been continually crushed by earthquakes, it still has enough charm to dedicate a few hours of your trip. Above all, the Basilica of Our Lady of the Angels stands out, the most famous Catholic temple in the Costa Rican country. In the Plaza Mayor, you can also take the opportunity to visit the ruins of Cartago, a church collapsed by the strongest tremor that shook the area. Just outside the city is the Lankester Botanical Garden.
Lankester Botanical Garden
Halfway between the city of Cartago and the town of Paraíso is the Lankester Botanical Garden, one of the places of interest in Costa Rica. This spectacular park is home to more than 3,000 different plant species, including a collection that exceeds 15,000 orchids. The garden is a project that the British naturalist Charles H. Lankester started in the 1940s and is currently managed by the University of Costa Rica with the collaboration of several international companies.
Turrialba is the name of one of the most mountainous cantons of Costa Rica where, the abundance of rains, makes up a truly spectacular landscape. This region is a must for lovers of adventure sports and hiking, and also for those who want to escape the heat of the lowlands. The offer of activities in this place is enormous but, personally, I recommend that you take a tour around the Turrialba Volcano (currently the access to the park is closed due to volcanic activity) and, above all, that you do the rafting descent through the Pacuare River. This river is one of the most famous in Central America to practice this sport. If you want more information about Cartago and Turrialba you can take a look at my blog post about it.
Monteverde is another of the regions to see in Costa Rica, being a mountainous area with very green landscapes and a great concentration of tourist attractions. Its cloud forests and hanging bridges stand out. It is also a region very given to adventure sports such as Canopy, an activity that I definitely recommend to everyone as you can read in the blog post about my trip to Monteverde.
Arenal Volcano and La Fortuna
Very close to Monteverde is La Fortuna, a place with a similar offer but with a difference that makes it irresistible: El Arenal. 1670 meters of a volcano that can be seen (if you get clear) from anywhere in the region. In addition to visiting the Arenal Volcano National Park or the Arenal Lake, this region is also known for its varied offers of tours and activities to do, such as the hot springs or horseback riding. By the way, if you are still planning your trip to Costa Rica, I recommend at this point that you consider taking out travel insurance. Although the Costa Rican country has an excellent health system, you know that any health or other problem abroad can be too complicated. If you are interested, take a look at IATI insurances that offer very good conditions.
Tenorio Volcano and Río Celeste
Another of the many volcanoes to visit in Costa Rica, but this one with the addition that the Tenorio Volcano National Park is crossed by the spectacular Río Celeste, named for being seen in that color. Curiously, the tint of this river is not real but is produced by an optical effect. If you want to read more about these places you can take a look at my trip through the Arenal Volcano and Río Celeste.
Guanacaste is the name of a region of Costa Rica, with Liberia as the central city, whose main attractions are its culture, the infernal heat, the Rincón de la Vieja Volcano and its beaches. The offer of Guanacaste beaches is infinite, although some of the most famous are Conchal, Tamarindo, Flamingo, Playa del Coco … On my second trip through the country, I was able to visit some of which I would highlight Bahía de los Piratas, Playa Dantita and the already mentioned Conchal. But I am sure that these are just some of the many spectacular beaches that make up the Pacific in the northwest of Costa Rica. If you want more information, you can take a look at my trip to the Guanacaste beaches or our Costa Rica beach guide.
The Rincon de la Vieja volcano
Without leaving Guanacaste, it is possible to visit the, in my opinion, the most interesting volcano in Costa Rica: the Rincón de la Vieja Volcano. This mountain of fire is the center of an immense national park where all kinds of landscapes are drawn. Special mention for La Cangreja Waterfall , the one in the photograph that heads this publication, located in this same venue. Here is my post about my trip around the Rincón de la Vieja Volcano.
Santa Teresa and Malpaís
At the other end of the Nicoya Peninsula are Santa Teresa and Malpaís, the name of two long beaches around which an eminently surfing community has developed. The climate of the area, its relaxed atmosphere, its beautiful beaches with rough seas delight fans of this sport. If you like surfing, this is your place and if not, do as I do and rent a bike to explore this long coastline at your own pace. The Cabo Blanco Absolute Natural Reserve, the fishing village of Malpaís or the Playa de los Suecos are recommended .
Next to the surf zone is Montezuma , the hippie paradise of Costa Rica. A community where, according to my sources, many American soldiers who did not want to go to the Vietnam War took refuge. Whether or not Montezuma is a place with a lot of magic, ideal for spending a couple of days. If you want more content about these places, take a look at the publication of my trip through Montezuma and Santa Teresa .
In Costa Rica I saw a lot and very beautiful but few places impressed me as much as Manuel Antonio National Park . Hence its white sand beaches and the total and absolute connection that tourists can have with the large number of fauna that roam the park. Without a doubt, Manuel Antonio is one of the places you should see in the Costa Rican country.
Old Port of Talamanca and Cahuita
Puerto Viejo is one of the towns with the most personality in Costa Rica as a large part of the country’s black community concentrates on it. Puerto Viejo is known for its food … and its long, busy nights. A few kilometres away is the Cahuita National Park, one of the few with free entry in Costa Rica. At least for now. Find out more about Puerto Viejo and Cahuita in my publication about it.
Tortuguero has a reputation for being one of the most spectacular places in the country, and it is. Located in the extreme northeast of the country, Tortuguero is a region surrounded by impressive canals, especially known for the turtle spawning that occurs between July and October. But if your travel dates are different, do not worry, since at any time of the year it is possible to see a large number of fauna and flora species. If you go to Tortuguero, I recommend you take a boat tour through the canals of the national park, if possible first thing in the morning. Don’t miss the opportunity to take a walk around the town of Tortuguero and see how the locals live. You can find more information in the publication of my days by Tortuguero.
At 3,800 meters of altitude, Chirripó is the highest mountain in Costa Rica and one of the few places where you can notice real cold in this country. However, there is a limit of daily entries and to visit it you need to reserve space well in advance, which is why I was left without seeing it.
Corcovado national park
Despite its remote location, Corcovado is one of the best samples of all that the Costa Rican country has to offer. Due to its enormous size and its large number of wildlife in the wild, it is also one of the few parks that must be accessed with a guide. In any case, it is one of the essentials in Costa Rica. More information in our article about the Corcovado National Park.
And between what I saw and what they recommended, these are the places that I encourage you to discover in case you take a trip to Costa Rica.
Now that you have ideas for a possible route, it may be a good time to start looking for a place to sleep during your stay in the country.
I do not want to end this post without first encouraging you to take a look at another blog post in which I recommend places to see in Costa Rica for free, free admission.
What to see in Costa Rica for free
That said, I am aware that Costa Rica, even though it is a small country, still hides many postcard corners. So I leave the blog comments open for those who know the country and want to leave us some other suggestion.